Characters Done Right: Kreia of Knights of the Old Republic 2

Kreia. ((A woman swaddled in dark brown and earth-tone robes, wielding a green bladed lightsabre in her right (and only hand). Her face is shrouded by a dark brown hood, concealing her eyes, and her visage is framed by white, braided hair.))

Spoiler Alert and Appropriately Long Explanation: There is no way I can talk about this character in any substantive manner without completely spoiling Knights of the Old Republic 2. It’s really just impossible without being so vague as to be meaningless, or too brief as to not merit an article. Learning who this character is, it is one of the rewards of advancing through the game. If you hope to play KotOR2 and don’t want a lick spoiled for yourself, then this article isn’t for you. Most of this article is a spoiler as is nearly everything I link in it. But it must be done because damn this character’s good.

We are used to women characters in video games being little more than blow up dolls or utterly effete caricatures of womanhood that are as vapid as daytime television. We are used to women villains and antagonists whose sole weapon is sex and whose existence is meant to evoke a nightmare of what might happen if we ever had control over our own bodies. The femme fatale dominatrix, as lifeless a cardboard cutout as the name of any such trope evokes.

All the foregoing is why I love Knights of the Old Republic 2’s Kreia endlessly. Because she is none of those things, and so much more.

You are immediately arrested by how her voice captivates, beautifully and hauntingly rendered by Shakespearian actress Sara Kestelman. A voice that is leaden with age, weight, wisdom, and a profound sense of her own history. She was once a Jedi Master, and was once a Sith Lord; now she is truly neither and your character- The Exile, a Jedi Knight who was cast out by the Order for marching to war against the wishes of the Jedi Council- now finds that Kreia is their mentor, their teacher.

Yet Kreia, by herself, puts the writing of every single Star Wars movie, and that of several of the novels, to complete shame. She is like no Master you’ve seen before- not a towering beacon of limitless hope and platitudes, and like no Sith you’ve seen before- no cartoon villain unrestrained hate and wanton destruction from her. She is a woman haunted by her past, having trained great Jedi, only to see her teachings spat upon by the Jedi Masters, only to see her students cast out or tarred as fallen. Her one selfish drive is to prove that they were wrong.

 

She would fall to the Sith, become Darth Traya, and- in her words:

What do you wish to hear? That I once believed in the code of the Jedi? That I felt the call of the Sith, that perhaps, once, I held the galaxy by its throat? That for every good work that I did, I brought equal harm upon the galaxy? That perhaps the greatest of the Sith Lords knew of evil, they learned from me?

It doesn’t take long for the Exile to begin getting to know her mentor, and the sheer weight of Kreia’s past is briefly hinted at in dialogue such as this. Yet in the end, she cast aside the mantle of Sith, finding no more peace, no more truth in the narrow confines of their teachings than she did in those of the Jedi. She endured great pain, only to climb out of the hole she had dug for herself, but not back into the light.

Why do I love this character? Because she embodies a great moral complexity. She is not a cliched villain, twirling her moustache and laughing wickedly as she does evil for its own sake. She is no villain at all, but neither is she a hero. Throughout the game she forces your character to think critically about seemingly straightforward moral judgements, good or evil, and implores you to consider the consequences, the echoes of your actions. Sometimes it is clear that her jadedness has gotten the better of her, other times she makes you step back and question. Some accuse her of being a Sith, but that is far, far too simple a title for her. As she says: “Sith’ is a title, yes, but like you, the title is not who I am.”

Throughout this game your mind whirs and reels as you try to pierce the veil of her teachings, her occasional obfuscations and mystifications, and debate with yourself about whether her judgements of your actions are correct or misguided.

To make my point abundantly clear, you are not thinking about her tits.

Kreia being awesome. ((Same as above, just with more awesome, embodied by the three violet bladed lightsabres she is willing to orbit her in this picture)).

Kreia is not a Sith, and not a caricature or cliché of evil, but nor is she a paragon of virtue. In this lies her moral and personal failing, but it is also what makes her most interesting. She is the embodiment, perhaps, of a Machiavellian philosophy. Swaddled in shapeless robes she seeks to mentor the Exile, your character, into fighting the new Sith threat. She wants her last student to be her greatest, to do what she cannot. She is not virtuous, but she knows you can be. She feels that even after having turned away from the Sith there is no salvation for her, save death. But she feels you can be saved, and use the powers she teaches you to wield in order to confront and destroy this latest threat.

The threat that takes the form of her two old Sith apprentices, Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus.

No game of dejarik can be won without pawns, and this may prove to be a very long game.” ~Kreia

The tangled web she weaves ensnares you, and in my case I loved every second of it. Kreia could easily have fallen into the stereotype of being a ‘manipulative witch’ or somesuch. But she’s far, far too clever for that. Throughout the game her machinations and manipulations are those of a virtuouso. Oftentimes, they are chilling. They leave you with a sense that only someone like Kreia, morally bereft after having walked where she has walked, could manipulate others, manipulate events in the callous way she does for the sole purpose of advancing a higher good.

And perhaps a selfish end, a selfish end that is born of the fact that this woman is, at heart, a teacher. A teacher who has been broken upon failures, wounded by the scorn of her peers, cast out and betrayed twice, who at the end of all things wants only to hear that she was right. That her teachings were correct.

The essence of what Kreia taught Jedi was that reliance on the Force was weakness, and that true strength came from not needing it. More dangerously she even suggested that the Force itself was unnecessary, and that perhaps much pain could be spared if it were gone from the universe. She chose your character to become her final, greatest pupil because your character- canonically- turned away from the force at the end of the war she ran off to fight. She held the power of the Jedi in her hands and cast it aside. Unwillingly, as an act of self-preservation (the game and or Wookipedia will explain in greater detail why), but cast it aside all the same and learned strength without the Force. In you she saw hope, for both her teachings, and hope for the galaxy against this newest threat.

The game becomes deeply philosophical at this point and Kreia’s ideology is drawn into sharp relief. At the end of the game you fight her erstwhile apprentices, people utterly drunk on and dependent on the Force. Your victory is meant to show that having turned away from the Force, as your character did, is not weakness but strength, and their ability to command it again (you level as a Jedi during the events of the game) is enhanced because of the time you spent without the Force.

All of this is deeply and inextricably intertwined with Kreia’s character: Kreia the mentor, Kreia the rebel, Kreia the exile. In the very end, she wanted to do what could be broadly called “the right thing”- but the road she took was carved by her history, the scars of the Sith she wears plainly in her words, leavened by the hard lessons she learned on her torturous journey. In the end she tells your character, someone she admits to loving as only a Master may love an apprentice:

Yes, always. From the moment you awoke, I have used you. I have used you so that you might become strong, stronger than I. I used you to keep the Lords of the Sith from condemning the galaxy to death with their power unchecked. I used you to lure them to Telos, where they could be, at last, fought and killed. I used you to reveal Atris’ corruption, so that her teachings could be ended before they began. I used you to gather the Jedi so they could be destroyed. And I used you to make those who wounded me reveal themselves, so they could be killed by the Republic.

In this is both virtue and evil. She came to believe that both the Jedi and the Sith were deleterious to the galaxy. Atris, one of the old Jedi Masters who had cast your character out (and whose kickass poster I reviewed recently), had fallen to the Dark Side. Kreia knew this. Yet she also sought to end the influence of the three remaining Jedi Masters you discover over the course of the game, rather permanently. People who judged her, and indeed who judged your character as well. Twice.

Even if your character blazes a trail of light across the galaxy and redeems herself with noble deeds every step of the way, at the end the Jedi Masters say you cannot be allowed to use the Force any longer and threaten to return you to exile after forcibly deafening you to the Force. It is, in the end, Kreia who saves you.

Step away! She has brought truth, and you condemn it? The arrogance! You will not harm her. You will not harm her ever again.

Mind you, these cold quotes in text do not do justice to the power of Kestelman’s delivery. There was love and thought poured into both Kreia’s writing, and into the acting that Ms. Kestelman used to give life to this character. The video links I’ve posted are relatively sizeable spoilers but capture her at poignant moments that demonstrate her in all her complexity. Manipulative and caring (in her own way), virtuous and sinister, light and dark, teacher and mother, she does- as they say- contain multitudes.

Kreia as she appears in game, conservatively robed, shrouded, and wearing the earth tones of the Jedi.

What I love most about her, perhaps, is the fact that she is a woman in the position of both protagonist and antagonist, and one who at last becomes both a woman Gandalf and a woman Saruman… and then transcends both archetypes. She is an elder woman, robbed of her left hand, blinded- not wantonly, it all has purpose and is all very much a part of her. But she is no sex object, she is no mere tool for heterosexual male pleasure. She is a character who could keep you up nights with philosophical debates about her, who inspires essays as long as this, and who is a study in psychology unto herself. She is the Lady of Betrayal, and teacher of a redeemer (at least if you go the light-side route).

She had endured a hard road, and at the end of the game she returned to her place in the sanctum of the Sith Academy on Malachor V not because she had fallen again, but as one final manipulation, to leave her second former apprentice Darth Sion at your character’s mercy.

And to finally put your teacher to rest.

Her story is a beautiful, philosophical tragedy in many acts. She was a rich tapestry of a figure and was, despite being the “final boss” and wielding a red lightsabre in that fight, much much more than a mere villain. Her two ex Sith apprentices, Sion and Nihilus, were shallow underdeveloped villains, menacing and wicked in all the right clichéd ways. Kreia was someone who always made you doubt whether she was evil, or good, and in the end wanted to raise a Jedi who could beat back the evil that she, in her folly, had brought into the world, and a Jedi on whose lightsabre she might fall so that she could return to the Force she hated so dearly.

I could go on endlessly about her- and that is itself a testament to the richness and completeness of her character. But suffice it for me to say, she is the character done right. She’s not just my favourite video game character, but my favourite in any medium. Well done, Obsidian. Other developers, take note.

Kreia is one hell of a woman.

About Quinnae

Quinnae Moongazer, (or Katherine Cross, as she is known in Muggle-speak) is a pizza loving feminist sociologist, trans Latina, and amateur slug herder, working on her PhD at the CUNY Graduate Centre. When she's not studying or gaming she can be found at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Her blog can be found at quinnae.com and her writing has also appeared in Women's Studies Quarterly, Bitch Magazine, Questioning Transphobia, and Kotaku. She is a co-editor of the Border House.
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32 Responses to Characters Done Right: Kreia of Knights of the Old Republic 2

  1. UbiquitousGrue says:

    Great writeup. :) I find this game lends itself very nicely to analysis.
    I love Kreia to bits. I’ve played KOTOR 2 a dozen times over; the writing and the characters keep bringing me back.

  2. Rakaziel says:

    Very interesting. Looks like a really great character. Her lifestory from her perspective, with some alternate choices, would also be a great game.
    First I had no intention to play KOTOR2 (do you need to have played KOTOR1 to understand the finer details?) but now I have developed quite an appetite on the game. Is there also a way you can keep Kreia alive or do you have to kill her as the ‘final boss’ ?.

    • Laurentius says:

      No, but actually i would rather not explain this final moments of the game any further, best to play it personally but i would say that the ending fit well with her character.

      I played KotOR2 without knowing first game, it wasn’t the problem and i don’t think that this fact changed my perspective in any serious sense.

    • There are technical difficulties with the ending of the game which may or may not have been fan patched by this point. What was intended as the end of the game and what was actually published as the end of the game were vastly different things.

      Many people who played the published version completely disregard the endgame.

  3. Laurentius says:

    Great article, I wholeheartedly agree and I don’t think I could add anything more to it. Kreia, for me is the best written, interesting multidimensional character in cRPG (all video games??) till now. There were many things that weren’t that great in KotOR2 but everything you have written about her elevated this game for me surpassing its actual quality. Even playing modern crpgs like Mass Effect 2, when I complete them I ask myself: “was it a good game? did I enjoy it?” and I’m always like: “not bad, not bad but there was no Kreia in it, moving on…” sigh.

  4. Kateri says:

    I love Kreia, and I love this article! That is all. <3

  5. Mirai says:

    What I find fascinating about Kreia is she seems like one of those characters that could have easily been a man but, in the end, she wasn’t, and she comes out far greater for it.

  6. I didn’t know anyone loved Kreia as much as I did. Well done.

    The thing I love most about KOTOR II, which I haven’t ever seen someone talk about, is how it follows the depiction of The Force in Star Wars to its logical endpoint and takes The Force as a total metaphor of God. A different understanding of God, sure, but God nonetheless. Kreia repeatedly comes very close in KOTOR II to saying “The Force works in mysterious ways”.

    In a very real sense, thus, Kreia’s goal in KOTOR II is to *kill God*. Which, regardless of your belief, is an amazingly powerful thing to be ascribed to a woman (as compared to, say, Lord Asriel of His Dark Materials, who uses women, in Lyra and Mrs. Coulter, as pawns). And what makes even more beautiful and tragic, to me, is that she does this despite knowing she’s going to fail. The world of KOTOR II is one in which The Force is not just a power to be manipulated but an active agent with a will of its own that cannot be denied; Kreia knows this, and rebels anyway.

    It’s also fascinating to consider that as a result of the events of KOTOR II, the Exile is literally the last Jedi alive (plus possibly her companions, trained by her), and thus the entire Jedi Order that follows is based on her (and thus Kreia’s) teaching.

    (I also find Sion and Nihilus fascinating, but admittedly that’s more conceptually than from the actual game space. In the game, they don’t do much, but as concepts they’re far better understandings of a “Dark Side” than anything else in Star Wars: Sion as Lord of Pain, who wills himself to immortality despite a broken body, thus living constantly in pain because he refuses to accept death; and Nihilus as Lord of Hunger, the consumer who has consumed so much that he is nothing but a mouth, no will left except to devour. Obviously Kreia trumps them all as Lord of Betrayal, the perpetual individual, who can never stay on any side but her own, but still. Especially in comparison to the comically Evil Palpatine or daddy issues Vader, they’re brilliant.)

    • Quinnae says:

      This was a very eloquent and thought-provoking comment, thank you. :)

      “Kreia trumps them all as Lord of Betrayal, the perpetual individual, who can never stay on any side but her own”

      Ah, so very well said! Would that I’d had a bit of your eloquence as I wrote this piece. :) I also agree with you about Sion and Nihilus and perhaps I should’ve made certain distinctions clear in the article. As concepts they were compelling, but the game developed them fairly poorly and their presence as villains was minimal and almost unthreatening even- despite the immense atrocities Nihilus’ unending hunger would make him capable of.

      Anyway, great comment, thanks!

  7. KA101 says:

    [KA101 is white, 26, cismale, presumed hetero, and autistic. He'd like to believe that he's at least working against being a sexist creep. YMMV.]

    I fear it’s going to be one of those comments. I got sick of Kreia’s plot-enforcer role. That included 1) mandatory lectures on why whatever I was doing was wrong (Example: start the game off by being chastised about looting a corpse. Problem is that said looting is the only in-game way to proceed, so something of a cheap shot.*); 2) forcibly reading and, in Disciple’s case, editing character memories–not cool for someone who’s seen the inside of an institution; 3) raising someone who I’d killed and looted (exploit game mechanics for fun/profit!); 4) clogging a party slot during one particularly touchy fight, for the purpose of being present to pull another betrayal (within LoS of the Exile, I think, not that we’re ever allowed to act on any of this).

    Is Kreia a strong character? Yes. Is she a woman whose sexuality was not intended as the player’s focus? Yes, and a good job thereon. Are either of those a problem? No. Do I think having a character who repeatedly demonstrates her unreliability in cutscenes, and tells me to my face that I should not trust her, is a good thing to have in more games? Not really.

    Thanks for your consideration.

    *Whereas BioWare apparently did better (never played DA:O myself):
    http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=2807

    • Quinnae says:

      An editor just fished this comment out of the spam queue where it got stuck for some reason- sorry about that, KA!

      As to your argument, hey we all have different perspectives. Honestly I wanted to tackle the issues you raise as an issue with structural gameplay- is it fun to play an RPG where a character like Kreia ineluctably steers you towards certain ends in a game where choice is supposed to be a central feature? But I decided to cut that for length.

      My answer is that Kreia is essential to this story, and essential to this plot- as much as your character is. And she’s a non hegemonically attractive woman! How awesome! But she is woven deeply into this story, more than the other party members. I never felt anymore constrained by her manipulations- even though as a full bore Light Side Jedi my Exile did much Kreia would sniff at- than I do by the general limitations of games like this (i.e. only having a few small zones to explore on a planet that’s one big city, say).

      As to that beautifully haunting opening line: “Find what you’re looking for amongst the dead?” I thought it wasn’t an admonition- this is Kreia after all, she’d not object to using what the dead no longer need so that one might survive, no? I thought it was just a wry observation that immediately set the tone of her character.

      Second, I can certainly understand how what might have happened with Disciple might be triggering and I’m sorry for ignoring that. This thing she does with Disciple- hiding herself from him, and then erasing his memory of a conversation he had with her on the Ebon Hawk- is one of those things that comes from Kreia’s ends-justify-the-means philosophy, and is it wrong? Absolutely. But it’s good to have a woman character who is shown to be capable of this kind of evil, as surely as a man would be. To be shown as capable of villainy that has nothing to do with sexuality.

      Third… Hanharr? Doesn’t seem like a huge deal to me. Looting the body of someone who’s mortally wounded seems possible and not at all an exploit.

      Fourth… are you referring to Onderon? I do not think that what she did with Colonel Tobin was betrayal. It was fucked up, yes, in her way, but not a betrayal- at least not of you. She lied to Tobin and sent him into the maw of a beast she’d created… but it was to draw out that beast so that his threat might be ended. It’s emblematic of her character and could inspire debates aplenty (as it already is, it seems!)

      Kreia tells you to trust in yourself and only yourself, not in her, the Force, the Jedi Code, or anything else. She is a suspicious figure, yes, but you are called upon to make moral compromises in this game. It fits. I don’t think it requires a tremendous suspension of belief to see Kreia travelling with you despite the mistrust. But again, it’s a matter of opinion. :)

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      • XIV says:

        I have nothing much else to say except.. This. Just. This! I totally agree with this. In the end I think the game was always one of moral gray instead of black ad white, and Kreia represented that really well. I really liked that about the game and her, it was so refreshing and Kreia herself was the kind of character that women hardly ever get to be, the manipulative mentor (who is /not/ sexualized) with multiple complex characteristics. And I love her for that, she’s one of my favorite characters ever. And yeah, definite props to Sara Kestelman for some of the best VAing I’ve ever heard!

      • KA101 says:

        OK, thanks much. Long comment short: agreed that it’s good to have strong, villainous-yet-nonsexualized women in games; however, I think we can achieve that in the context of a WRPG, as opposed to a JRPG. Kreia crossed over that line more often than I’d appreciate.

        Places I felt specifically constrained by Kreia’s manipulations: Primarily Duxun. 1) Atton is clearly shown as less-than-competent with the ship. Why, from the Exile’s perspective, keep him on board to fix it when Bao-Dur is clearly the better man for the job? He and T3 could probably have it good to go by the time the Exile makes it up the hill. Instead, we narf around so Kreia can get her plot on.
        2) Kreia is short her left hand and therefore cannot, to my knowledge, dual-wield or use a two-handed weapon. She is therefore suboptimal from a combat perspective, as well as untrustworthy by her own admission. Yet she demands to take up one of my slots in the Basilisk. I’d much rather have Mandalore, the Handmaiden, or perhaps even HK-47/the Disciple to support Atton and myself on that operation.

        Couple clarifications:
        I had Mira hit Hanharr with a sword, repeatedly, as well as trying to nail him with the preplanted mines. We’re talking significant physical trauma. He eventually dropped, Mira loots him, and thereafter there’s no, body, corpse, or other token; same as when I dual-wield lightsabers into some slaving Exchange git or Mandalore pumps disintegrator bolts into a trooper. Normal gameplay: he’s gone. [Hugo Weaving voice] Goodbye, Mr. Hanharr. [/HWV]
        Having him suddenly reappear and stay fresh long enough to be raised was the reason I complained.

        I was talking about Onderon, and I suppose Kreia betrays Tobin; hadn’t been looking at that angle. I’d been thinking that the Exile can see/hear her healing a ranking member of the opposition, revealing sensitive information to him, and directing him to pass it along to Nihilius. I feel like I should at least be able to give her a dirty look. Saves Visas the trouble of helping us find him but risking Telos, not to mention the civilian presence on Citadel, is grossly inefficient.

        Finally, someone else mentioned Chris Avellone. Suffice it that he had an admittedly lesser hand in Fallout 2 as well. He’s capable of doing somewhat better at player freedom than this.

        Thanks for your time; it’d be nice to go over some of the other characters as well but that would definitely be a separate thread.

        • Laurentius says:

          Your reservations are once again rather directed at Kotor2 story then Kreia character. Of course Kreia is essential to the story much like for example Aragorn is to the story of Lotr, changig them would inevitable greatly change the story itself.

          • KA101 says:

            [Friendly note: I thought Gandalf, and Tolkien by extension, was full of shit. Telling the hobbits that since they weren't born for greatness, as Aragorn was, they shouldn't DARE try to improve beyond their designated lot? [Palantir, after recovery from Saruman's tower.] If that’s a good story, then I’ll gladly have poor taste.]

            Suffice it that I wanted Kreia out of my squad. I pretty much formed this opinion after Telos: invading Atton’s mind wasn’t cool, no matter how much greater good it might have done. However, the most I was able to do was to keep her out of the active party, and I did so to the extent the game permitted me.

            A well-done characterization would, in my opinion, provide sufficient reason for me to maintain Kreia as an active party member, including keeping up with her leveling, gear, and other sundry issues. Instead, she was the Plot Enforcer and treated as such; check in to pick up the various bennies, get cutscene’d as the plot requires, and otherwise forget she exists.

            To be clear: I had no reason or desire to interact with Kreia outside of game mechanics [level up personal crystal, get prestige class, maybe mine some LS points from a conversation, etc]. No matter how thoroughly fleshed-out and realistic a characterization may be, it doesn’t do much good if the player is going to resent and actively ignore it.

            Kreia would have made a great NPC adversary (she could still show up and help/undermine as needed to advance her plot, without the aggravation of not being able to at least let my party member get killed off); as a squad member, she seems primarily useful as a source of frustration. If I wanted more frustration in life, I wouldn’t be playing games in the first place.

            Thanks much.

  8. KA101 says:

    OK, I just wrote a fairly long and reasonably (IMO) thought-out comment. It isn’t showing up; not sure if the system ate it (I opened another page here, with closed comment thread to verify a link) or I qualified for moderation.

    Frustrating, in any event.

  9. slickhop says:

    Great write-up.

    Loved this game. I thought that the reveal at the end of KOTOR1 was just spectacular, and I was prepared for KOTOR2 to be garbage, but it wasn’t. And Kreia was certainly one of the reasons why.

  10. Richard Naik says:

    KOTOR 2 was one of the most tragic games I have ever played. The sloppiness that dominates the last 1/3 or so of the game is heartbreaking, as it could have been so, so fantastic in every way possible. Instead it got rushed to shelves with lots of bugs and large plot points that go nowhere.

    Still, Kreia is by far the best thing about the game. The haphazard ending notwithstanding, she throws villain tropes for such a loop that she’s too fascinating not to follow despite the rest of the game falling apart around her. I loved KOTOR 1, and overall I was disappointed in KOTOR 2, but it certainly wasn’t Kreia’s fault.

  11. Mina says:

    It’s funny how impressions can differ. Kreia is almost the character I like least out of any game I’ve played (that mantle is reserved for Theresa from Fable). I thought she was needlessly abstruse, transparently manipulative and so absorbed into her own trauma that she lost contact with reality.

    The game doesn’t do nearly as well a job explaining everything as you did though. Honestly the last bit of the game was so rushed and incomprehensible that I didn’t understand at all why I was fighting her at all, so I probably just missed a lot of things that might have changed my opinion of her.

  12. Doug S. says:

    I pretty much agree with everything in this post. Kreia got a “Character of the Year” award from Gamespy in 2005, and it was well-deserved. I’ve played a lot of video games and read a lot of novels, and when it comes to fascinating characters, I have to reach as far as Shakespeare’s Hamlet to find one with as much depth and mystery as Kreia.

    Kotor 2 seems a lot like a deconstruction of the entire Star Wars mythos. In Star Wars, things are black and white: there is the Light Side, which is good, and the Dark Side, which is evil. The Jedi are altruistic and follow the Light Side, and the Sith are selfish and follow the Dark Side. In real life, things are seldom so simple. Kreia’s Light Side/Dark Side meter is exactly in the middle, and, unlike many of the other characters that join your party, it never moves. In the charaters of Kreia and Atris, Kotor 2 writer Chris Avellone is trying to present us with something that, according to the standard Star Wars dogma, shouldn’t be able to exist: someone who follows the way of the Sith without actually being evil, and a person who has become evil in spite of following the way of the Jedi.

    Throughout the game, Kreia argues that the way both Jedi and Sith usually act often produce results in opposition to their stated goals. If the Exile gets enough Dark Side points, Kreia will argue that, if you want to pursue power, you should help other people instead of trying to exploit them because overcoming their challenges will make you stronger, but if the Exile gets enough Light Side points, Kreia will argue that, if you want to help people, you need to give them the opportunity to solve their own problems instead of doing it for them, because otherwise they won’t have the opportunity to grow as a person.

    Kreia also manages to “interpret” another Sith doctrine in a way that seems to lead to a greater good: the “one master, one apprentice” doctrine. The Sith master must find and train an apprentice, and the apprentice is supposed to try to kill and replace the master. Now, why would a Sith master want to train an apprentice in the first place, if the apprentice is only going to be a threat to his own power? The answer is actually explained in Kotor 1: the ultimate goal of the Sith philosophy is the creation of the perfect being, one with no limitations. What Kreia understands, but most other Sith don’t, is that a Sith master takes an apprentice not because he wants a powerful servant or because the Sith teachings need to be preserved, but because he’s looking for someone with the potential to be even better than he is. A true Sith wants to be replaced. In Kotor 2, Kreia takes the Exile as her apprentice, and, at the end of the game, forces the Exile to fight and kill her. And the Exile has indeed surpassed Kreia, and not just by defeating her in battle. Despite all her hatred of the Force, Kreia was never able to stop using it, but the Exile could, and did.

    • Quinnae says:

      Well said! You hit the nail on the head there with one of Kreia’s better character traits, which is the fact that she ably deconstructs the light side/dark side dichotomy that defines the Star Wars universe. Very few other fictional outings with the Star Wars IP do this but the writers of KotOR2, largely through the person of Kreia, raise serious and biting questions about the nature of the Force, whether you are a Jedi fan or a Sith fan. It goes beyond the often cackling, wanton evil that is portrayed in SW, and characterised Darth Malak, the rather cardboard cutout villain from the first game.

      Kreia is often pegged as a Sith Lord but she isn’t, not truly. After everything she’s learned, she can’t be one in truth. Everything at the end struck me as a ruse with one ultimate point: your final exam.

      One of my favourite moments in the game is when she tells Atris: “You betrayed yourself. Do not blame the Exile; and unlike you and I, there is still a chance that one may be saved.” It was a powerful moment of self-awareness. As I said in the article, Kreia knows there’s no going back for her, but there is for the Exile potentially- and in her own warped way, it is that which all her lessons are driving the Exile toward.

      Great comment, thanks! As you can probably tell I can go on about this character. ;P

  13. LD says:

    This article was excellent, as was circadian’s comment above. I totally agree with everything both of you said.

    I just wanted to add that the game designer Chris Avellone is probably largely responsible for this marvellous character and story. If you love Kreia and KOTOR2, then you’ll probably also enjoy very much other RPG games like Planescape:Torment and NWN2′s first expansion pack, Mask of the Betrayer, which also feature amazing plots written by Chris Avellone. Though these other games do not focus as much as KOTOR2 on a single NPC like Kreia, they also have strong, non sexualized female NPC’s (e.g. Ravel, Safiya).

  14. LD says:

    Oh and there is indeed a restoration mod that fixes some of the rushed content of KOTOR2: http://deadlystream.com/forum/files/file/13-tslrcm/

  15. pyrofennec says:

    Oh lord yes, this is why I go “NOOOO” when everyone whinges about KOTOR2 and what an inferior game it was compared to the first. Nobody in KOTOR holds a candle to Kreia, nobody, and Bastila is a horrible mess.

  16. Ultraviolet says:

    Kreia was spectacular – but i think the entire story of KOTOR2 is spectacular and i liked it much better than the first. Not many stories allow you to play the likes of a Jedi and a Sith Lord with actual rationale behind both of their actions instead of ‘i do it all because i’m evil’ (lol involuntarily turned that into Voltaire song lyrics :) ). Imo KOTOR2 does a noticeably better job in that than even Mass Effect and i love Mass Effect series to all the ikkle bits.

    I somewhat ID evil irl and find the Sith code very inspiring, not because i believe Star Wars, the Force or Sith are real but because i think the channelling of passion into strength and freedom is a beautiful spiritual aspiration. And sometimes when you are hated by both the nominal ‘good’ and ‘evil’ for multiple reasons, all beyond your control – this mantra can be all that stands between life and death and can put the near-infinite emotional pain in perspective with strength and victory. I don’t enjoy playing a psychopath or a primary school bully which almost all evil character paths in games amount to. KOTOR2 was different, playing a Sith never felt wrong, inadequately overboard or illogical. And Kreia was different. And perfect. You’ll laugh but her character is one i look up to sometimes, in terms of thinking for myself when taking sides can never be an option.

  17. Bel says:

    I’m so happy to see an article on Kreia here, she is one of my favourites. Everything you said about her is beautiful and true.

    My only qualm is that I wish you could have said it without dismissing out of hand almost all the other women in games. There are WAY more excellent female characters than the industry ever recieves credit for, and Kreia doesn’t need to stand on the backs of the ones who are shallow and two dimensional in order to be great. It does her a disservice to contrast her to the lastest newcomer in Soul Calibur or whatever – she is beautifully written enough to stand up across genre, gender and medium.

    • Quinnae says:

      Thank you.

      That said I find the nit you’ve picked in your second paragraph to be a strange characterisation of what I wrote. The simple reality is that a lot of women and girls in video games are downright terrible characters and someone like Kreia, especially as a woman who is not hegemonically attractive (even great women characters in video games are often made young and pretty), makes her stand out all the more.

      What I said was is that “we are used to” poor characters. This seems uncontroversial, at least if the ‘we’ is meant to circumscribe TBH’s general readership, which it was meant to. I did not say that all other women in games suck compared to her, nor did I say that she was one of the only good women characters (several of KotOR2′s women alone could merit Characters Done Right articles- and indeed the very existence -of- that series on TBH does sort of make clear that we know there are great women characters out there).

      I’m not saying that Kreia is only great because she’s not Princess Peach, and I would think that the unalloyed praise and lengthy analysis of her character and philosophy I wrote would have made that clear. Not to mention the fact that I said this: “She’s not just my favourite video game character, but my favourite in any medium.”

  18. PatientC says:

    Thank you for writing this. I found myself mostly alone on the Obsidian forums regarding Kreia — I loved her complexity, but a lot of folks seemed to find her a bossy nag instead. I loved the way she was written and I especially loved the way she was acted. She was never mustache-twirling evil, but always unabashedly the person she was. I found many folks that found her to be simply bad, and had no patience for figuring why she was training someone to stop her from ending the Force, and therefore life. (Most did not tolerate Mical either, which I did not understand.)

    It did not occur to me until much, much later that one of the reasons I liked KotOR II so much, and felt so comfortable playing it, was that there are so few sexualized female characters. Mira is the only female party member walking around scantily clad and she makes it clear that this is very deliberate to distract males.

    I played KotOR II first, and went back and played I just to know what was being referenced in the first game. Unfortunately, I had the impression that the Expanded Universe, particularly the Old Republic, was going to showcase more moral ambiguity and complexity than is seen in the franchise as a whole. That does not seem to be the case. (Must.Not.Blather.About.MMO.Reven.Controversy.)

    On TSLRCM: it is definitely worth playing, in my opinion. I had read a lot about how the game’s intended ending and cut content, and had waited years to see it. However, if you are not intensely interested, then you may be better off watching the best bits on YouTube.

    I love the recent KotOR II posts, thanks for writing them! I usually lurk, but read often!

    • Quinnae says:

      Thanks so much for your kind recent comments, they are very much appreciated! *smiles*

      I have to say I find the Obsidian forums nonsense to be disappointing, partially because I have found a pretty high degree of support for Kreia even in that most wretched hive of scum and villainy: YouTube comments. Certainly there are lots of guys calling her a ‘bitch’ (how original and unexpected) but quite a number of people who praise her up and down (and in a much more estimable place, like the comment section -here- you can see there are many more Kreia fans. :) ).

      Mira… I have mixed feelings about in terms of her stated reason for showing off as much skin as she does. Now, I won’t lie, I like the outfit conceptually. But really, I’d have preferred her trying to claim it as her own style rather than saying “I use this to distract dudes then give them an uppercut.” It feels very… wrong, somehow. Partially just in terms of consistency with the world itself because this assumes that all her opponents will be A) Male (and attracted to women) and B) that they will be attracted to human females (lest we forget, tonnes of aliens consider humans to be deeply unattractive or even repulsive.) It thus comes off feeling like a cheap excuse that preys on asinine gender stereotypes.

      Sorry, didn’t mean to rant about that! I absolutely *love* Mira as a character, however. She’s great, and a tonne of fun to have around. The moment you train her as a Jedi on Nar Shaadaa, that was well acted on her part. It was so rewarding to see the facade fall away and for her to finally liberate herself from the act she’d put on for self-protection.

      And yes, KotOR1 and 2 were accomplishing different goals. I don’t like arguments about which is better because I feel that even though one is a sequel of the other, it’s a bit apples and oranges. 1 was designed to capture the spirit of the original trilogy- epic space battles with lasers everywhere, implacably wicked, destructive Sith Lord enemy, an evil Empire to be beaten back, the spirit of adventure and hokey religion with a blaster at your side… ;) It was very good for what it was -meant to do-…

      But do I miss KotOR2′s ambiguities? Oh yes. With 1, I do lament- much as you seem to- the loss of the distinctions that permeate KotOR2′s Force like a million hairline cracks. It makes it stand out, as you so rightly pointed out, among much of the SW canon. It raises very difficult questions that I’m very sure George Lucas never wanted to consider. *smirks* Kreia, to my mind, along with the Exile herself, call much of the vaunted Jedi Code into question. Zez-Kai Ell’s relieved doubting on Nar Shaadaa also continued to suggest that some reform, some nuance and moderation was perhaps required of the Jedi. I liked it, you really began to question things.

      Jolee Bindo from KotOR1 raises similar questions, elucidates possibilities that go beyond the lightside/darkside dualism. But it’s minor compared to the raw, all consuming ‘critical theory’ of KotOR2. ;)

      Anyway, I’m babbling again! Thank you so much for your comment, it’s a pleasure to write this stuff.

      (Oh and I played through TSLRCM and saw some YouTube videos of the bits I missed to boot).

      Finally… *gently nudges you into blathering about MMO Revan Controversy!* Who knows, I may get an article out of it. :)

      • PatientC says:

        I only compliment when appropriate!

        I think that Kreia takes patience with ambiguity and a love of cerebral challenges to really appreciate. To be fair, not everyone picks up a controller for those reasons, and I do understand that. (I mean, I am totally on the Halo bandwagon, but much more for the rich stories that only get nods in the games themselves than for the super-soldiers-beat-aliens shtick.) I tend to stay away from YouTube comments, I can see now that in this instance I should go back and read them.

        I am not immune to Mira’s charms, to be sure! We are almost on the same page: I saw it as Mira herself playing on the cheap stereotypes that people allow themselves to fall into rather than the game designers doing so. Although, I agree that it would have been better, and certainly more empowering, if she had just said “I like looking like this,” whatever she was wearing. I really like her conversion scene, it almost ties with Atton’s for emotional impact (he had a lot longer trip to get to that point, to be fair). A side bar: I love the fact that both of them become Jedi to better do what they want to do anyway rather than dropping their lives and goals to do it — does that make sense?

        Ohh, I would never engage in a “which one is a better game” argument. I think TSL is unfairly disadvantaged in that with regard to the rushing-to-shelves problem. I think you pegged the philosophical difference between them! TSL is much more interesting to me because it deconstructs the foundation of the Star Wars universe (shhhh, but I was never a big fan of the movies). I figured I would never see a piece of the official franchise question the nature or motivations of the Force, itself, and I am glad to see at least one piece ask the same questions that were floating around in my head.

        Ack, the Reven/MMO thing bugs me to no end! Now, the following is how I see it, with all the given above. I thought that Bioware would embrace what Obsidian had done with the Old Republic and continue it with the MMO, but that does not seem to be the case. The time line on the Old Republic’s web page (and an interview with one of the writing crew) indicates that Reven (and Malak) were simply tools of the Sith Emperor. This really disappoints me, as it negates a lot of what I had built up in my head between my own play through of the first game, and what we learn from Kreia in the second. In my biased opinion, they seem to be removing Obsidian’s moral ambiguity for a form of their own that seems far less challenging. I will likely still play it, but I cannot help but feel a pre-disappointed. This is a big scandal to some, and I don’t mean to bring that to your comments section (it got somewhat ugly on the official site’s forums).

        Thank you for your reply. I really enjoy this article and all the great comments to it! (Never mind being a Border House fan in general…) I apologize if the above is a little scattered, I am a little scattered but wanted to reply before it slipped my mind.

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